£35m transfer hope, why Van Gaal must cheer City in Champions League

Kevin Strootman playing for PSV, Jonathan Reis for Vitesse

Manchester United won't want to cheer Manchester City, but in their own self-interests, their progression in the Champions League may be to their benefit.

It will have been strange for Manchester United fans to be outsiders for Thursday's Champions League draw, not involved at the group stages for first time since 1995.

No doubt fans were busy consoling themselves watching record signing Angel di Maria being unveiled at Old Trafford, as these final few days of the transfer window are at least giving a slight hope amid a depressing run of early season results.

The transfer they really need is a top midfielder, and there is nobody Louis van Gaal admires more than a player United passed on last summer, Kevin Strootman.

The Dutch international is coming off a serious knee injury however, so there has been to action from United this summer, who would only be over charged for a player who needs to prove he can get back to his best.

He has the chance to do that in the Champions League, against high profile opponents Bayern Munich, Manchester City and CSKA Moscow.

Roma were the pot four side everybody wanted to avoid, and it was City's tough luck they landed in a 'group of death' once again despite being in pot two.

Before a wry smile breaks out among United fans, this can actually work to their advantage. If City can help knock Roma out, their rumoured January pursuit of Kevin Strootman could just get the green light.

While already debatable whether Roma would let the Netherlands international go mid-season, what is for sure is that they would not sell him in the midst of a Champions League campaign, and Strootman may be even more reluctant to move away.

Should Roma be knocked out, the Europa League drop down should they finish third is unlikely to be able to tempt him to stay, should United offer the huge £35 million they have been linked with bidding. The Italians would also miss out on a cash windfall from making the knockout stages, something the money in. United's coffers could make up and then some.

Louis Van Gaal would not dare admit it, not least after losing heavily to MK Dons, but he may be secretly hoping Manchester City can do him a favour this Autumn, and help nudge Kevin Strootman towards his grasp.

Register for MANCHESTER CITY team updates

Register for MANCHESTER UNITED team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch